When our Write My Memoirs members hire us to edit their memoirs, we notice that verb tenses seem to be a tough grammar hurdle that trips up many writers. So let’s tackle these tricky little verbs one tense at a time. I’ll devote as many blog posts as it takes, starting with today.
When we list the forms of a verb, typically we list two tenses—present tense and past tense—plus the past participle, which is a component of the remaining tenses and is the most problematic. The last one—the past participle—is the most problematic. To illustrate the three tenses of the regular verb to help, you would list: help (present tense); helped (past tense); and helped (past participle). In practice, this goes: today I help the customer; yesterday I helped the customer; over the past week I have helped many customers. You can see that the past participle takes a helping verb like have. For regular verbs, the past participle is the same as the past tense—in this case, both are helped.
However, there are many irregular verbs. Let’s try to take: today I take my temperature; yesterday I took my temperature; I have taken my temperature many times this week. In that irregular example, took is past tense, but taken is the past participle. To run also is irregular: today I run; yesterday I ran; I have run five times this week. That’s an unusual case, because the past participle run is the same as the present tense, first person. Keep in mind, though, that “person” presents another variable that can change the present tense, but the past participle remains the same. With to run, the past participle remains run when we change the example from first person (I) to third person (he/she): today he runs; yesterday he ran; he has run five times this week.
Practice on other verbs until we dig into this again next time!